Saudi Arabia rejects US position on Israeli settlements


RIYADH — Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it completely rejects the Trump administration’s statement that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are no longer considered illegal under international law.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the Kingdom’s “total rejection of the US statement that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law”.

An official source at the Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry added that Israel's construction of the settlements is contrary to the resolutions of international legitimacy and international law, and stands as an obstacle to achieving peace and stability in the Middle East and the two-state solution.

He stressed that achieving lasting peace requires the Palestinian people obtaining their full legitimate rights in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and the resolutions of international legitimacy.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a speech at the State Department on Monday that the Trump administration, after carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, concluded the “establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”

The announcement reverses a longstanding US State Department legal opinion upon which US policy was based, which concluded establishing settlements in the Palestinian territories went against international law.

The Arab League, of which Saudi Arabia is a member, condemned Pompeo’s statement as “a very negative development.”

Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Tuesday the decision would result in “more violence and cruelty” against the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli settlers and “undermines any possibility” of achieving peace.

The Arab League said it is to hold an urgent meeting Monday on the US announcement that it no longer considers Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank illegal.

Hossam Zaki, the pan-Arab body's deputy secretary general, said several members had backed a Palestinian Authority call for a ministerial meeting. The PA's permanent representative to the Arab League has condemned Washington's change of position as "illegal".

The Trump administration’s revised position on settlements has been met with international criticism.

The UN Human Rights office and European Union have reaffirmed their common position that Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are in breach of international law.

Critics say the Israeli settlements impinge on the land of native Arab Palestinians, depriving them of their natural rights as inhabitants of the land, and restrict the mostly rural Palestinian population from undertaking farming and other activities related to the cultivation of their land.

The Palestinian Authority on Monday slammed the position as “completely against international law.”

Washington is “not qualified or authorized to cancel the resolutions of international law, and has no right to grant legality to any Israeli settlement,” Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah said in a statement.

Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) representative for Jerusalem, Bernard Sabella, told Al Arabiya English that the decision “goes counter to international laws and understandings.” — SG